Health Care

Monkeys show immunity to coronavirus

Monkeys show immunity to coronavirus”

Nine Rhesus Macaque monkeys - similar to this one - were given a trial coronavirus vaccine in a USA study that found they were ultimately immunised or resisted re-infection.

Two studies on monkeys published yesterday offer hope that humans can develop protective immunity to the novel coronavirus.

"The trial demonstrates that a single dose of the new adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) vaccine produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days, making it a potential candidate for further investigation", coauthor Professor Wei Chen from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in Beijing said in a statement.

Still, "In these two studies, we demonstrate in rhesus macaques that prototype vaccines protected against SARS-CoV-2 infection and that SARS-CoV-2 infection protected against re-exposure", Barouch said in Beth Israel news release.

Currently, there are more than 100 candidate COVID-19 vaccines in development worldwide. All nine animals recovered and developed antibodies against the virus.

In one study carried out by Barouch and other researchers, nine adult rhesus macaque monkeys were infected with the virus. For most, but not all, viruses, the remnant antibodies allow us to fight the disease off quickly if exposed again.

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The authors wrote that "macaques had high viral loads in the upper and lower respiratory tract, humoral and cellular immune responses, and pathologic evidence of viral pneumonia".

These studies, which have been peer reviewed, do not prove that humans develop immunity or how long it might last, but they are reassuring. Eight of the vaccinated animals were completely protected. Follow-up testing revealed dramatically lower viral loads in vaccinated animals compared to the control group. The latest development in their study is that monkeys which were infected with the virus developed an immunity when they were re-infected with the virus after recovering.

Barouch's team reports in Science that 35 days after the original infection, they gave the monkeys the same doses of SARS-CoV-2 as each had received initially.

"But we also show that the levels of antibodies correlate with how good the protection is".

The authors also reported that among subjects who had high pre-existing levels of immunity to Ad5, only five (25%) participants in the low-dose group, seven (37%) participants in the middle-dose group, and 10 (63%) participants in the high-dose group had at least a fourfold increase in their levels of neutralizing antibody for the coronavirus 28 days after receiving the vaccine.

"Rigorous clinical studies will be required to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 infection effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 re-exposure in humans", they said. "Further research will be needed to address the important questions about the length of protection, as well as the optimal vaccine platforms for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for humans".



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